Feature Article - October 2019
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Great Escapes

Provide Respite & Relaxation With Shelters & Shade Structures

By Deborah Vence


Mike Moore, national sales manager for an Arizona-based company that specializes in manufacturing shelters and shade structures, pointed out how they have evolved over the years.

"Providing shade and shelter from the elements, protecting landmarks, machines and equipment, covers for multipurpose classrooms and meeting areas are very popular," he said. "Family gatherings, picnic areas, playground equipment, dugouts and spectator areas are still the most common shelters. The evolution of custom structures has brought aesthetics and a focal point to themed parks or campuses. These structures can be built to complement many of the creative ideas of the landscape architect."

"Also, let's not forget one of the fastest-growing segments in the outdoor spaces segments—dog parks," Curtis added. "Dog parks are now including shade and shelter structures as more people spend extended periods of time in this ever-growing and expanding outdoor space."

Richard Lubbers, vice president of marketing for a Holland, Mich.-based company that designs, engineers and fabricates shelters, gazebos, pavilions and more, noted the following of the different uses of shelters and shade structures:

>> "Environmental: Shelters and shade structures are used to protect people and animals from the elements of sunlight, wind and rain in any outdoor activity.

>> "Recreational: Shelters and shade structures are used for a multitude of recreational purposes, such as picnics, community events, outdoor concerts, athletic activities, playground shade, carousels, fish cleaning stations and hiking trail waypoints.

>> "Community: Shelters and shade structures are used for farmers' markets, bandshells, community centers, outdoor classrooms and walkways.

>> "Utilitarian: Shelters and shade structures are used for public transportation, public time clock towers, message kiosks and portable toilet enclosures."

From Basic to Unique

Shelters and shade structures feature a variety of functions that can be as basic as a fabric shade to designs that are more complex, such as a shaded walkway.

"Some of the most basic and popular uses of fabric shade is over playground equipment and seating areas such as bleachers at sports fields," Bayman said. And, "The designs," he noted, "can range from very utilitarian using a basic four-support column layout and a single fabric canopy, to complex multi-layered designs or structures that limit support columns to one side for enhanced spectator viewing such as at sports fields."

When it comes to pavilions, today they "go beyond basic and traditional," Graves said. "Structures are designed and engineered for each specific site, starting with the ideas and needs of the park. Pavilions are no longer limited by 'standard designs.' Whether it's a large picnic pavilion or a small seating area along a walkway, parks are able to create a design as unique as their facility and community. Perfect for hosting reunions, birthday parties or just a picnic during a family outing, pavilions are one of the most essential pieces of any park area."

She also said that "Amphitheaters can be an eye-catching first impression and central hub within a park for hosting public events, concerts and performances."

And if you are looking to get a return on your investment, amphitheaters can be a good solution, bringing money to the community or local charities through ticket admission and fundraisers.

"Amphitheaters become a focal point within a park and can make it a destination," Graves said. "With the ability to personalize a structure and increase site recognition with laser-cut medallions and signage, or by adding attachment points for temporary banners to identify sponsors and local events, the amphitheater can serve a dual purpose as an advertisement for the park and its event.

"Outdoor facilities are gaining in popularity as people are wanting to create a greater connection with nature," she added. "Farmers' markets can be developed for a permanent venue so merchants no longer have to transport tents. Parks are adding fitness areas with equipment and interactive games that need protection from the elements. Playgrounds and splash pads are incorporating shade to allow children to play longer without the fear of overexposure to direct sunlight while preventing equipment from getting too hot. Even dog parks need a place for pets and owners alike to stop and take a break."